On August 12th, the U.S. Census Bureau released the redistricting data that Maine and other states will need to redraw congressional and legislative districts.
Under the Maine Constitution, the Apportionment Commission must finalize proposed district boundaries by June 1st based on the latest estimates from the federal government. The Legislature must then adopt the Commission’s plan, or one of its own, by June 11th or the responsibility goes the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
However, COVID-19 dramatically delayed the U.S. Census Bureau from delivering the apportionment data by the April 1st deadline. This made Maine’s June 1st requirement impossible to meet.
In late May, legislative leaders from both parties asked the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to extend the timeline to allow the independent Apportionment Commission to develop legislative and congressional district maps after reviewing the new census data.
On July 19th, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court granted the request to extend the deadline. Under this new timeline, the Apportionment Commission has 45 days after receiving the data to submit redistricting plans. The legislature will have 10 days to vote on those maps or develop their own. Two thirds approval is required. If lawmakers cannot reach an agreement, Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court will draw the maps.
The U.S. Census data showed that the state’s population only grew by 34,000 people (2.6%) over the past decade. The growth was not spread evenly across the state. The southern counties of Cumberland and York saw population growth of over 7%. The northern counties of Aroostook and Piscataquis lost the most residents.
The Commission will need to switch 23,000 Mainers from the First Congressional District to the Second Congressional District, currently held by Democratic Congressman Jared Golden. Donald Trump won Maine’s Second Congressional District in 2016 and 2020. Of all the House Democrats in Congress, Golden holds the seat that voted for Trump the most (+7.4%) in 2020. The shift of Mainers will likely make the Second Congressional District more Democratic, but not dramatically.
The Commission will also need to redraw 151 House and 35 Senate districts. We can expect to see substantial changes in many of the districts. The House districts should end up covering just over 9,000 people. Currently, House districts range from about 7,800 to 11,590. The Senate districts should all end up covering just below 39,000 people. Currently, there are districts with fewer than 35,000 and districts with more than 44,000.
We expect a Second Special Session to be held in early October since the Apportionment Commission has to submit its plans by September 27th and the Legislature will have 10 days, until October 7th, to accept the Commission’s plan, or come up with its own.